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In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

By Ilene Dube,

originally published: 10/19/2023

In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

Nearly three decades ago, Michael Joseph founded the New Jersey Book Arts Symposium. A writer of everything from poetry, comics, children’s books, and novels, who has created 14 one-of-a-kind, limited-edition artists’ books, he is just the sort of person who would start such an annual daylong event.

Now in its 29th year, the NJBAS, under the auspices of Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, “distinguishes itself by looking at work in all aspects of the book arts… such as typography, book-binding, paper-making, calligraphy, illustration and book-design, alongside the innovative production of artists' books, bookworks, or book objects," according to its website.

This year’s event, “Taking a Breath,” will be held at Rutgers’ Alexander Library, 169 College Avenue, New Brunswick on November 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Attendance is free, and guests may register by emailing A continental breakfast and sit-down lunch will be provided, thanks to the Rutgers University Libraries and a grant from Middlesex County.

In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

Book by Chuck Miley. Hey Diddle Diddle, Metal Book.

The program begins with a hands-on workshop by Catherine LeCleire and Suzie Tuchman in which participants will make an accordion book with a folded cover that will be decorated with ink stamping. Artist-in-Residence James Horton will make photographic portraits of attendees on-site -- participants are invited to bring artist's books to include in a portrait.

There will be a pop-up exhibit with books made by the presenters. The afternoon will include presentations by featured book artists Robyn Ellenbogen, Carole Kunstadt, Chuck Miley, and Ann Vollum.

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 “The artists we select often work in many different forms and make compelling art with a relationship to book arts,” says NJBAS Artistic Director Karen Guancione, an artist, educator, and curator who has been making books for more than 50 years and has collaborated with artists on installations that adapt traditional book making techniques. “Generally, the most interesting book artists move around freely among a wide range of media,” she continues. “In the 29 years of the NJBAS we've invited more than 200 artists to speak, and less than half of those have been principally concerned with books or artists' books. We look for innovative, exciting art that will inspire all who attend.” 

Each featured artist will present images of their work, followed by audience questions and engagement. Those in attendance include artists, librarians, collectors, writers, critics, scholars, teachers, students, and the general public.

In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

Robyn Ellenbogen exhibits a series of bamboo slip books and handmade paper shields. Bamboo slip books were an early form of book making in China prior to the invention of paper. Ellenbogen made paper during the pandemic, exploring new areas of form and deepening her engagement with nature. Ingredients such as seeds, flowers and the incidental markings of the path of beetles are transmitted throughout the work.

With a studio in an old barn in Shrewsbury, Ellenbogen, at one time a printmaking assistant to Louise Bourgeois (who “deeply influenced my feeling for materials and furthered my appreciation for the phenomenal and internal experience involved in making art”), works in such media as metalpoint, artist books, installation, animation, and textiles. A Zen Buddhist practitioner whose art has been exhibited throughout the New York Metropolitan area, Ellenbogen features as an artist in residence in hospitals where she works with chronically ill children and young adults. “Artists do not retire!” she said in an interview in The Heroine’s Journey, pointing out that the artist Hokusai threw out everything he did before he was 60 years old. “How wonderful to consider this possibility in a culture that celebrates youth.”

In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

Robyn Ellenbogen exhibits a series of bamboo slip books and handmade paper shields.

Carole Kunstadt works as a collagist, painter, and book arts and fiber artist. “I often invoke a metaphysical quality of contemplation and timelessness,” she writes on her website. “By deconstructing paper and text, recent works reference the material of books, music manuscripts, ephemera often combined with artifacts.” As Ann Landi writes in Under the Radar, "A strong interest in craftsmanship underlies Carole Kunstadt’s quirky sculptures and two-dimensional works… she is tearing apart old books to make magical objects that pay homage to earlier times and trailblazers."

In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

Sacred Poem XC, detail, gold leaf, thread, paper: pages from a Parish Psalmody, 1849, 12 x 12 x 1in.

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Chuck Miley, designer, book maker, freelance artist, and author has taught at Pratt Graphics Center, the Print Making Council of New Jersey, Akron Art Institute, and the New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts. His awards include a New Jersey State Council on the Arts grant. A one-time Peace Corps volunteer, his pop-up books incorporate welding. In an artist statement he writes: “My work is political. It is based in awareness and growing awareness of the world and acts in society around me and history of that society. I am aware that every work I make stands on the shoulders of the artists, the cultures, and activists that went before. My works are my voice speaking of what I see around me, the beautiful and the profane.”

In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

Book by Chuck Miley, Strange Fruit.

Ann Vollum is a fiber and mixed media artist. She was juried into the 2022 New Jersey Arts Annual: Reemergence, and the 2022 and 2023 14C Art Fair Showcase.

In Celebration of the Many Forms Artists Create with Books

Ann Vollum's description of her altered book: The Ogre Downstairs , Diana Wynn’s Jones. It is an altered book, an old library book which I drew Beasties on every page. The color is liquid acrylics. The beasts follow through from page to page so there is continuity throughout the book. Peep holes and cutouts are throughout, the imagery that you see through the peep holes makes sense with the drawing which ever way you turn the page. 8.5 x 5.75 x 1 inches.

Following the program, attendees are invited to show their own work at the Book Artists' Jam. “The name originated when we first started the Symposium at the Dana Library at Rutgers-Newark, as a nod to our neighbor on the fourth floor, the Institute of Jazz Studies,” writes Joseph.

In the spirit of this year’s theme, “Taking a Breath,” short meditation breaks led by Kate Van Riper will be part of the program.

New Brunswick | Nov 3 | 9:30am - 4:00pm

About the author: Driven by her love of the arts, and how it can make us better human beings, Ilene Dube has written for JerseyArts, Hyperallergic, WHYY Philadelphia, Sculpture Magazine, Princeton Magazine, U.S. 1, Huffington Post, the Princeton Packet, and many others. She has produced short documentaries on the arts of central New Jersey, as well as segments for State of the Arts, and has curated exhibitions at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie and Morven Museum in Princeton, among others. Her own artwork has garnered awards in regional exhibitions and her short stories have appeared in dozens of literary journals. A life-long practitioner of plant-based eating, she can be found stocking up on fresh veggies at the West Windsor Farmers Market.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.



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